In 1993’s ground-breaking Jurassic Park, tourists are pitted against genetically-engineered theme park dinosaurs. But if there’s something visually-striking about the movie besides its special effects, it’s the alluring backdrop. The remote island setting may be fictional, but its lush valleys, rugged mountains and majestic coastlines are very real.
Along with the bestselling novel on which it’s based, Jurassic Park is set in Costa Rica, but it was actually filmed in Hawaii. Various filming locations included Oahu’s Kualoa Ranch and Kauai’s Manaiwaiopuna Falls, which we visit in this article. Some scenes were also filmed at Manoa Falls in Oahu, that gets publicized as “Jurassic Park Trail”.
Located a 45-minute drive north of Waikiki, Kualoa Ranch, the private nature reserve best known by tourists for its filming locations, has served countless movies since the 50’s. But it’s perhaps most famous for Jurassic Park, a movie my wife and I have loved since we were young, and one that brought us together some years back, hence our desire to visit Hawaii for our honeymoon.
When thinking of the movie’s backdrop, one scene that always comes to mind is where the characters are caught in a herd of fleeing dinosaurs that appear over a beautiful valley rise, before they take shelter under a fallen tree.
As part of Kualoa’s “Premier Movie Sites Tour”, standing just yards away from that same rise after our tour bus stopped in Ka’a’awa Valley – or “Jurassic Valley” – was surreal, to say the least. But seeing the same fallen tree on the roadside (positioned of course for photo opportunities with the iconic Jurassic Park sign) came with a whirlwind of nostalgia.
But the wonder went beyond that of any movie. This broad valley, with its green pastures and the encompassing sloping peaks, boasts a beauty to behold. In fact, it appears so timeless I was able to paint against it a herd of dinosaurs myself with my newly-inspired mind’s eye – at least until my wife jumped in the way to take a selfie.
Days later, we flew over to Kauai for the “Jurassic Falls Helicopter Landing Tour” with Island Helicopters. It’s one of many such tour companies that operate on the island, but it’s the only one that’s permitted to land at the privately-owned Manaiwaiopuna Falls made famous in the movie, and now more commonly known as “Jurassic Falls”.
Outside Lihue Airport, we buckled up in the back of the helicopter – nervous, though, as my wife gets motion sickness and I was wearing my favourite shirt – before the propeller started to thump overhead. Soon, the earth beneath us fell swiftly away as we were whisked into the skies of Kauai.
Just moments into our 80-minute aerial tour of this serene island, we were winding through Hanapepe Valley – the one the characters fly through in the movie as they too make their way towards Jurassic Falls. Meanwhile, the iconic Jurassic Park score played through our headsets, which my wife had walked down the aisle to just a month before.
With the movie’s plunge pool-helipad long since reduced to a mound of rubble, we landed a short jungle trail from the falls. And just a short walk later, there it was: at a staggering 400 feet, a column of water eagerly rushing down a cliff face of black rock. Movie locations often appear smaller in real life, but the grandeur of Jurassic Falls cannot be overstated.
Once airborne again, we were introduced to “one of the wettest points on the planet” in Kauai’s interior, Mount Wai’ale’ale, at the bottom of which is the water-filled canyon, Blue Hole. So it came as no surprise to learn that this is where the movie’s storm-drenched T-Rex Paddock was built.
Then, finally, it was onto Na Pali Coast on the North Shore, the jaw-dropping mountainous shoreline that served as the face of the movie’s fictional island, “Isla Nublar”. With its lush, vibrant-green slopes and unbeatably-blue waters, it too looked like it had been created by movie magic.
There are some smaller Jurassic Park finds throughout Kauai, too, and some bigger ones from its four sequels between both Kauai and Oahu. And with a sixth movie already underway for a 2021 release, it’s fair to say Hawaii’s relationship with the series will never become extinct, and neither will our love for them both.
More Movies, Filmed in Hawaii
Dan is a freelance writer from the UK who works for a number of online publications. He’s also working on a science fiction novel, and believes the impression Jurassic Park made on him as a child – both the Spielberg film and the book by Michael Crichton – to be the source of his passion to write. He previously critiqued theatrical releases for his local radio station, while his blog ‘Curious Rookie’ remains his platform for sharing film, travel and book reviews. Dan has also visited some of the most iconic film locations around the world, and his favorite destination is the island of Kauai in Hawaii.